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Published: June 27th 2022
When my wife and I had originally planned this trip, we planned for a couple days in Paris, 40 days on the Camino, and a couple weeks in Chipiona. Well, as they say, the best laid plans do oft go astray. First of all, Manoli had heard so much negative about the meseta, that she insisted on skipping it, by taking the bus from Burgos to Leon. So that took about 6-8 days off the Camino. Secondly, I hadn't really counted the number of days we'd have in Chipiona, and now there were 6 or so more. I really like Chipiona and my wife's family, and we went to a few interesting places, but by the end of the first week, I was really bored. When I started thinking about the number of days left in Chipiona, it didn't give me a good feeling, so I started thinking of some way to leave early, with or without my wife. I knew she enjoyed her time there, so I didn't want to cut it short, unless she wanted to. After looking into return flights, and the cost thereof, I started thinking about Military Space A flights and found out they were taking Category VI (retired military) now and that there we some perspective flights by the 3rd weekend in Chipiona. I signed up and my wife started calling in each day for an update. To make a long story short, I decided the best bet was a cargo plane Saturday morning to Charleston, South Carolina. Roll Call (that is when they start calling names, so you have to be there) isn't until 7:30am, but I didn't want to ask anyone to take me to the base at that hour. My sister-in-law was in Las Cabezas caring to her parents, and she had the car, so I asked my other brother-in-law, Raphael, to take me at 9pm Friday.
I said my goodbyes and headed to the base. I knew I was likely to have a long wait, but I could watch movies on my PC, and even take a short nap. The only thing that worried me was that the flight would be canceled or there wouldn't be enough, or even any, seats on it. There were other flights Sunday morning, to Norfolk, but that was less convenient and again, no guarantees either. We arrived at the gate, I said thank you to Raphael, and took a taxi to the air terminal. I checked in, confirmed the Roll Call was for 7:30am, plugged in my PC, and started waiting. There was actually quite a bit of activity for that time of night. A couple of flights came in, and a couple went out, either going East to Sigonella or such, or going to California. Around 4am I took a short nap, in the Family Room the USO provides. They had a nice sofa with pillows. I only got about an hour or so sleep, but it helped. At 7:30am, the customer service representative said they still didn't know if there would be seats, plus the flight was delayed and they weren't sure just when it would arrive, but be ready, because it wouldn't be on the ground long. Around 7am, a few others had shown up, for the same flight, all of them youngsters.
At about 10:30am, they called our names, we checked our luggage, and proceeded to wait. It was looking pretty good. I had been worried about the weight of my wife's bag, especially if the 70 pound limit included my backpack. Well, they weighed the luggage, and that was it. Whew! We hung around for a bit, and then they finally called us to the waiting room. I went through the checks and started waiting, then realized I'd left my hearing aid by the PC desk. The people there were nice enough to go get it for me, so all was well. We got on a bus, went to the plane, a C-17 Cargo plane, got aboard, and at about 12:30pm we were off. The flight was supposed to take about 8 hours. So, with the time differential of 6 hours, we'd be landing at around 3pm. I positioned myself as comfortable as possible on my webbing and metal seat, and even took a couple of short naps. There was no food, and just water and a restroom, but hey, what do you expect for free. I had picked up a sandwich and little doughnuts at the food court next door, so I wouldn't starve.
We landed at Joint Base Charleston and were taken to the air terminal about 3:30pm. I'd already checked on a bus, and the last bus for Greenville left at 4pm, so I figured it was too late for that. At this point I wasn't sure what to do, so I grabbed my backpack and my wife's luggage and started walking to the exchange/commissary so I could get something to eat and drink, and plan my next move along the way. The walk was probably over a mile, but about half way there a guy pulled up in his truck and asked me if I wanted a ride. I told him sure, that I was going to the exchange/commissary, and he said okay. I got to the exchange, bought a welcome Dr. Pepper, and decided to rent a car from Budget. It was at the the Charleston International Airport, so I had to call a taxi, actually an Uber car, to take me there.
The Uber car called from the gate saying she couldn't enter the base, so I had to walk there. I arrived at the airport, found the Budget car rental and got my car. By 5pm or so I was on my way home. I stopped a couple times, once for a soda and a couple stops at rest areas, and got home by 8:30pm.
First of all, I was very glad that my wife wanted to go with me this time, especially since I probably won't do another Camino. I wish I'd either planned on us both returning earlier, or at least convinced my wife to do the "meseta". I hated leaving my wife in Spain, although it was her choice and I'm sure she was happy to spend more time with her family. The Camino was all and all an enjoyable experience, but as I like to say, not that much fun, since it was difficult. We got to see parts of Spain that my wife hadn't seen, and enjoyed the social aspect of it too, since we hardly ever take a vacation with someone else, in this case the other pilgrims. Also, it was much more enjoyable without having to carry our backpacks, so I advise anyone who isn't sure about whether they can carry their backpack, to consider using the transport service, rather than deciding not to do the Camino at all.
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Home and Away
Sometimes I think that Space A flights aren't worth the stress and discomfort. I use frequent flyer miles, even though commercial flights aren't much better! I enjoyed following you again. And at least your wife will have a slightly more comfortable plane ride home in a couple of weeks.